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Article Reference Local extinction processes rather than edge effects affect ground beetle assemblages from fragmented and urbanized old beech forests
Local extinction of specialist species due to fragmentation is one of the major causes of biodiversity loss. Increased extinction rates in smaller fragments are expected to result from both smaller local population sizes, which increase the effect of environmental or demographic stochasticity, and increased edge effects. However, the relative effect sizes of these two factors are still poorly investigated. We attempt to disentangle these effects on ground beetle communities of temperate broadleaved woodland fragments situated in one of the most urbanized regions in Belgium. Assemblages were sampled along transects that extended from 30 m outside to 100 m inside both small and large historic forest fragments. Although species assemblages within the forest were highly distinct compared to those sampled outside the forest, species turnover along these transects was less pronounced within forest fragments indicating only weak edge effects. The magnitude of edge effects did not differ significantly between large and small fragments. However, larger differences in species composition were observed with respect to fragment size, wherein highly specialized species persisted only in the largest fragment. In sum, increased local extinction processes in smaller fragments, which led to a strong reduction of specialized and wingless forest species, appeared to be the most important factor that drives changes in species composition in this historic and fragmented woodland complex.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Ideal Free distribution of fixed dispersal phenotypes in a wing dimorphic beetle in heterogeneous landscapes
According to the ideal free distribution (IFD) theory, individuals that are able to perceive the quality of different patches in a landscape and disperse freely are expected to redistribute themselves proportionally to the carrying capacities of heterogeneous patches. Here, we argue that when dispersal is unconditional and genetically fixed, a coalition of sedentary and dispersing phenotypes can attain an IFD under spatio-temporally uncorrelated variation in fitness. This not only leads to a stable polymorphism of both dispersal phenotypes, but also implies that the number of dispersing individuals should on average be equal among patches and determined by the carrying capacity of the smallest local populations in the landscape. Differences in carrying capacity among patches are thus only reflected by changes in the number of sedentary individuals. Individual-based simulations show that this mechanism can be generalized over a wide range of spatio-temporal conditions and dispersal strategies. Moreover, these expectations are in strong agreement with empirical data on the density of both dispersal phenotypes of the wing dimorphic ground beetle Pterostichus vernalis within and among ten different landscapes. Hence, for the first time, these results demonstrate that this mechanism serves as a plausible alternative to the competition-colonization model to explain the spatial distribution of fixed dispersal phenotypes in heterogeneous landscapes. Understanding of the frequency distributions of individuals expressing discrete dispersal morphs moreover improves our predictive and management capabilities for a broad range of species, for which we currently typically rely on using mean dispersal rates.
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Article Reference Human-Induced Expanded Distribution of Anopheles plumbeus, Experimental Vector of West Nile Virus and a Potential Vector of Human Malaria in Belgium
For the majority of native species, human-created habitats provide a hostile environment that prevents their colonization. However, if the conditions encountered in this novel environment are part of the fundamental niche of a particular species, these low competitive environments may allow strong population expansion of even rare and stenotopic species. If these species are potentially harmful to humans, such anthropogenic habitat alterations may impose strong risks for human health. Here, we report on a recent and severe outbreak of the viciously biting and day-active mosquito Anopheles plumbeus Stephens, 1828, that is caused by a habitat shift toward human-created habitats. Although historic data indicate that the species was previously reported to be rare in Belgium and confined to natural forest habitats, more recent data indicate a strong population expansion all over Belgium and severe nuisance at a local scale. We show that these outbreaks can be explained by a recent larval habitat shift of this species from tree-holes in forests to large manure collecting pits of abandoned and uncleaned pig stables. Further surveys of the colonization and detection of other potential larval breeding places of this mosquito in this artificial environment are of particular importance for human health because the species is known as a experimental vector of West Nile virus and a potential vector of human malaria.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Effects of sublethal abiotic stressors on population growth and genetic diversity of Pellioditis marina (Nematoda) from the Westerschelde estuary
Understanding the effects of anthropogenic pollutants at the ecosystem level requires a proper understanding of the toxicological effects at the population level. Species living in estuaries resist highly fluctuating conditions, and are often exposed to sublethal concentrations of pollutants coming from industrial and domestic wastes. In the Westerschelde estuary, the most upstream sampled population of the nematode Pellioditis marina is genetically less diverse than elsewhere. It experiences lower salinities and higher Cd concentrations than more downstream populations in the estuary. In the present study, we investigate whether these environmental conditions may explain the lower genetic diversity in the most upstream location. To this end we followed the development of genetically diverse P marina populations under experimental conditions during 14 days. Genetic diversity was assessed in the F1, F2 and F5 generation by screening mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase c subunit 1 variation with the single-strand conformation polymorphism method (SSCP) and nucleotide sequencing. Our results show that sublethal Cd concentrations reduce population development of P. marina at suboptimal salinities, and that low salinity conditions induce responses at the genetic level. Nevertheless, the genetic effects were not persistent over generations, which emphasize the need for longer multigenerational experiments. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Article Reference Does behavioural isolation prevent interspecific mating within a parallel ecotypic wolf spider radiation from the Galapagos?
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Direct and indirect effects of metal stress on physiology and life history variation in field populations of a lycosid spider
1. Under stress, life history theory predicts reduced growth rates and adult sizes, reduced reproductive allocation, production of larger offspring and postponed reproduction. Both direct and indirect effects of metals can explain these trends, mainly linked to energetic constraints. Metallothionein-like proteins (MTLP's) are believed to be an important defense mechanism against the adverse effects of metals and other stressors. 2. We tested these predictions comparing six field populations of the wolf spider Pardosa saltans, three of which were on sites that are historically polluted with heavy metals. 3. As expected for life histories evolving under energetic constraints, adult size and condition correlated negatively and egg mass positively with Cd concentrations for a subset of four populations. In the population that showed the highest cadmium and zinc body burdens, reproductive output and allocation were lowest and reproduction was postponed. 4. Contrary to our expectation, for all six study populations MTLP concentrations did not increase in exposed populations, indicating that this defense mechanism cannot explain the observed variation in life histories. 5. We conclude that indirect and synergistic effects of metal pollution may be more important than physiological defense mechanisms in shaping life history traits in field populations. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Condition-dependent mate choice and its implications for population differentiation in the wolf spider Pirata piraticus
When populations face different environmental conditions, both local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity may cause interpopulation divergence of behavioral or phenotypic properties on which mate choice is based. If sustained, this may result in genetic differentiation even in the presence of extant gene flow. Condition dependence of mate choice is one of the main mechanisms explaining these environmental effects. We tested whether experimental food stress affects mate choice in male and female Pirata piraticus spiders from one heavily polluted and one unpolluted reference population. Compared with control females, food-stressed females from the reference population showed a decreased probability of copulation and preferred smaller mates. Females from the polluted population, in contrast, did not show a significant response to food stress and showed size-assortative mating, most strongly under food stress. We explain these results in 2 complementary ways. First, spiders from populations that are not adapted to cope with stress may be less willing to mate when eggs are not fully matured. Second, food-deprived females may show a larger responsiveness toward smaller males because the latter resemble prey more and hungry females tend to attack moving objects more often. Results from this study support the prediction that variation in body condition, driven by local ecological factors, may affect mating behavior and may ultimately lead to population divergence in important life-history traits such as body size.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Complementarity effects drive positive diversity effects on biomass production in experimental benthic diatom biofilms
P1. Positive effects of species diversity on ecosystem functioning have often been demonstrated in 'macrobial' communities. This relation and the responsible mechanisms are far less clear for microbial communities. Most experimental studies on microorganisms have used randomly assembled communities that do not resemble natural communities. It is therefore difficult to predict the consequences of realistic, non-random diversity loss. 2. In this study, we used naturally co-occurring diatom species from intertidal mudflats to assemble communities with realistically decreasing diversity and analysed the effect of non-random species loss on biomass production. 3. Our results demonstrate a highly positive biodiversity effect on production, with mixtures outperforming the most productive component species in more than half of the combinations. These strong positive diversity effects could largely be attributed to positive complementarity effects (including both niche complementarity and facilitation), despite the occurrence of negative selection effects which partly counteracted the positive complementarity effects at higher diversities. 4. Facilitative interactions were, at least in part, responsible for the higher biomass production. For one of the species, Cylindrotheca closterium, we show its ability to significantly increase its biomass production in response to substances leaked into the culture medium by other diatom species. In these conditions, the species drastically reduced its pigment concentration, which is typical for mixotrophic growth. 5. Synthesis. We show that both species richness and identity have strong effects on the biomass production of benthic diatom biofilms and that transgressive overyielding is common in these communities. In addition, we show mechanistic evidence for facilitation which is partly responsible for enhanced production. Understanding the mechanisms by which diversity enhances the performance of ecosystems is crucial for predicting the consequences of species loss for ecosystem functioning.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference A land snail's view of a fragmented landscape
Habitat fragmentation may influence the genetic structure of populations, especially of species with low mobility. So far, these effects have been mainly studied by surveying neutral markers, and much less by looking at ecologically relevant characters. Therefore, we aimed to explore eventual patterns of covariation between population structuring in neutral markers and variation in shell morphometrics in the forest-associated snail Discus rotundatus in relation to habitat fragment characteristics. To this end, we screened shell morphometric variability and sequence variation in a fragment of the mitochondrial 16S rDNA gene in D. rotundatus from the fragmented landscape of the Lower Rhine Embayment, Germany. The 16S rDNA of D. rotundatus was highly variable, with a total of 118 haplotypes (384 individuals) forming four clades and one unresolved group. There was a geographic pattern in the distribution of the clades with the river Rhine apparently separating two groups. Yet, at the geographic scale considered, there was no obvious effect of fragmentation on shell morphometrics and 16S rDNA variation because G(ST) often was as high within, as between forests. Instead, the age of the habitat and (re-)afforestation events appeared to affect shell shape and 16S rDNA in terms of the number of clades per site. The ecologically relevant characters thus supported the presumably neutral mitochondrial DNA markers by indicating that populations of not strictly stenecious species may be (relatively) stable in fragments. However, afforestation after large clearcuts and habitat gain after the amendment of deforestation are accompanied by several, seemingly persistent peculiarities, such as altered genetic composition and shell characters (e.g. aperture size). (C) 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 98, 839-850.
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Article Reference High-resolution carbon isotope stratigraphy and mammalian faunal change at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary in the Honeycombs area of the Southern Bighorn Basin, Wyoming.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications